Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Aug17/02)
4 August 2017
Third World Network
India re-calibrates its TFS proposal
Published in SUNS #8515 dated 3 August 2017
Geneva, 2 Aug (D. Ravi Kanth) - India has re-calibrated its proposal
on trade facilitation for services (TFS) at the World Trade Organization
by suggesting that the proposed TFS agreement will only cover commitments
scheduled under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS),
trade envoys told the SUNS.
The African Group and many other developing countries had raised numerous
concerns over India's initial draft TFS legal text at the meetings
of the Working Party on Domestic Regulation (WPDR) on 14 March, the
Council for Trade in Services on 16 March, and at the Doha negotiating
body for trade in services on 3 May.
Many developing countries had opposed the draft TFS text on grounds
that it is not part of the Doha Work Programme mandate and impinged
on their rights to regulate trade in services.
South Africa, for example, had raised numerous concerns that the TFS
proposal sought commitments far beyond what is being negotiated in
domestic regulation as well as in the Doha services negotiations.
In an attempt to meet and assuage the concerns expressed by the African
Group and other developing countries, India has now come out with
a revised draft proposal which is substantially moderated so as to
remain consistent with the existing draft texts on domestic regulation.
The 18-page restricted Job/Serv/267 document issued on 27 July, according
to India, is "in the spirit of constructive engagement."
"India has sought to refine the TFS text by making changes to
incorporate the various comments and suggestions raised by Members
in order to make the TFS text more meaningful and acceptable,"
the document said.
More important, the revised draft proposal seems to be consistent
with the draft domestic regulation text issued by the then chair for
WPDR negotiations Peter Govindasamy in 2009.
According to India, the revised draft TFS proposal contains "three
main substantive changes."
The changes include:
i. The TFS Agreement is being limited to commitments that are scheduled
under GATS, with the exception of Art. 8.2 (dealing with Mode 2 movement
for persons seeking medical treatment).
"In the first draft," India explained, "Article 2 on
Publication had also been made applicable to all sectors, whether
or not scheduled. But we have now limited Article 2 also to scheduled
commitments. With the objective that TFS is primarily aimed at making
scheduled commitments more effective, we have modified Article 1 on
Scope to reflect this aspect. This also follows the approach in the
DR (domestic regulation) negotiations and the draft DR text."
ii. India's initial draft had used the term "Immigration Formalities"
to refer to entry measures (visas, work permits, etc.) which are relevant
for the entry of natural persons providing services.
This term is being replaced with the phrase "Measures relating
to entry and temporary stay", given the various sensitivities
expressed by several Members associated with the term "immigration".
Changes have been carried out in this regard throughout the text.
iii. The TFS Agreement applies to all measures affecting supply of
services in respect of scheduled commitments.
"However, we have in this revised draft limited Article 3 on
"Administration of Measures" to the two main types of measures
affecting supply of services, namely: Authorisation and Measures relating
to entry and temporary stay. The term "Authorisation" refers
to permits/licences, etc. required for a service, and "Measures
relating to entry and temporary stay" pertains to visa/work permits
required for Mode 4 movements. The reason for limiting Article 3 to
only two types of measures is because this provision deals with "Administration"
related aspects, and places several onerous requirements relating
to timeframes, and procedural requirements for dealing with applications,
etc. Its applicability to a wide set of "measures affecting trade
in services" could have a wide set of obligations for both developed
and developing countries. Since the main thrust of concern on TFS
is measures pertaining to Authorisation and Measures relating to entry
and temporary stay, we have limited this provision accordingly."
The main objective, according to India, is to ensure that existing
scheduled commitments by members in the GATS are made "more effective."
Second, India has clarified that the term "immigration facilities"
such as visas, work permits that are relevant for the entry of natural
persons under Mode 4 of the GATS in the original draft proposal is
now replaced with the phrase "Measures relating to entry and
This would address the "sensitivities" expressed by members
associated with the term "immigration," India has argued.
More important, the revised draft TFS text has limited the measures
affecting the supply of services to "two main types of measures".
They are "Authorization and Measures relating to entry and temporary
While "Authorization" refers to "permits/licenses"
etc required for a service, the term "Measures" relating
to entry and temporary stay pertains to visa/work permits required
for Mode 4 movements.
"Since the main thrust of concern on TFS is measures pertaining
to Authorization and Measures relating to entry and temporary stay,
we have limited the provision accordingly," India has explained.
In response to concerns raised by the African Group about the right
to regulate trade in services, the revised draft says, "recognizing
the right to regulate, and to introduce new regulations, on the supply
of services within their territories in order to meet national policy
objectives and, given asymmetries existing with respect to the degree
of development of services regulations in different Members, the particular
need of developing countries to exercise this right."
India has further emphasized that the proposed TFS agreement "should
not be construed to prescribe or impose particular regulatory approaches
or any particular regulatory provisions in relation to measures affecting
the supply of services."
The revised draft TFS proposal has sought improvements in aspects
concerning GATS Article III (Transparency), Article IV (Increasing
the Participation of Developing Countries), Article VI (Domestic Regulation),
Article VII (Recognition), Article XIX (Negotiations on Specific Commitments)
and the Annex on Movement of Natural Persons Supplying Services under
the Agreement so as to address issues relevant to facilitating trade
Although India has circulated the revised draft TFS proposal for placating
the concerns raised by members, it has not indicated that the TFS
proposal remains a major priority for the WTO's eleventh ministerial
meeting in Buenos Aires.
India has subtly served a notice to major industrialized and some
developing countries who are trying to run away with an agreement
on transparency-related issues of domestic regulation at the Buenos
Aires meeting without addressing the core issues of barriers imposed
on movement of short-term services providers, said a source who asked
not to be quoted.